The Passionate Shepherd to His Love Questions and Answers
by Christopher Marlowe

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What figures of speech are used in the poem "The Passionate Shepherd to His Love"?

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Olen Bruce eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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This poem is a form of pastoral poetry, a type of poetry that deals with shepherds that is set in the countryside. It is essentially a call by the shepherd to a woman to enjoy the delights that nature and wildlife have to offer. Marlowe uses several different figures of speech and poetic devices. For example, in the second line, he uses consonance, or the repetition of consonant sounds at the beginning of words that are close together, in the phrase "pleasures prove." Later examples of consonance in the poem are "coral clasps" and "shepherds's swains." He also uses assonance, or the repetition of the same internal vowel sounds in words that are close together, in lines such as "me" and "be" in the first line and "seeing" and "feed" in the second stanza. In addition, Marlowe uses repetition of the first part of a line, or anaphora; he begins many lines with the word "and" to stress how many beautiful delights and activities he will offer his love. 

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The best way to analyze the figures of speech in Marlowe`s `The Passionate Shepherd to His Love` is to look at treatises on figures of speech written by Marlowe`s near contemporaries such as George Puttenham, Angel Day, Abraham Fraunce, Richard Sherry, and George Puttenham. On the level of figures of sound, Marlowe uses alliteration frequently, especially on stressed syllables within a clause, e.g. ``may-morning`, ``mind ... move`. Metaphor appears in the line `melodious birds sing madrigals`(note also the alliteration), in that it is an indirect comparison of bird song with elaborate Italianate music. Much of the poem involves hyperbole, or exaggeration, e.g. àll the pleasures, thousand fragrant, etc.

 

 


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